Nothing free about this
Shaq's misery at the charity stripe hits new lows
Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2000 1:33 AM
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNNSI.com
Having already won a world title and Most Valuable Player awards for the regular season, All-Star Game, and NBA Finals, Shaquille O'Neal isn't really used to being the worst at anything.
But if the Lakers' center, who had never been mistaken for Mark Price at the free-throw line, continues to miss his free throws at his current rate, O'Neal might challenge the NBA mark for single-season foul shooting infamy.
As unbelievable as it may seem, through Dec. 22, O'Neal was shooting a league-worst 38.4 percent from the charity stripe. To put that in perspective, not only would that conversion rate rank as the second-worst of all time for a single season behind Chris Dudley's 1989-90 season, no less than five dozen NBA players this season currently have foul shooting percentages which are at least TWICE as good as O'Neal's.
Perhaps the Laker pivotman hit rock bottom on Dec. 8 in a loss to the Sonics. That night O'Neal missed all 11 of his free throws to set an NBA record for attempts without a make. O'Neal eclipsed the record of notorious bricklayer Wilt Chamberlain, who on Nov. 4, 1960 missed all 10 of his offerings from the line.
Pity the plight of the player who fails to learn from Chamberlain's mistakes. If the Big Dipper had shot 75 percent from the line in his career, Chamberlain would have scored another 2,840 points -- or more points from free throws than he scored in 10 of his 14 NBA seasons.
For O'Neal, foul shots have been anything but free. Were he even a 75 percent foul shooter this season -- hardly an unreasonable expectation for a perennial All-Star -- he would not only add another 4.2 points per game to his 25.8 scoring average, but he would also be leading the NBA in PPG.
Of the league's top 40 scorers this season, only two other players were shooting below 70 percent from the line. Through his first 28 games this year, O'Neal had already recorded five nights of at least 10 missed foul shots.